Nepal Bans Solo Hiking Across Country, Implements Mandatory Guide Rule

In this Feb. 19, 2016, file photo, trekkers make their way to Dingboche, a popular Mount Everest base camp, in Pangboche, Nepal. InternationalIndiaAfricaMary ManleyIs the thrill gone?Starting April 1, Nepal will no longer allow trekkers to hike by themselves in their mountain-rich country: foreign travelers with hopes of viewing the Himalayan destination on their own will be required to hire a licensed guide or join a group before exploring the region, regardless of experience levels.“When you are traveling solo, in case of emergencies there is no one to help you,” Mani R. Lamichhane, director of the Nepal Tourism Board, told an American news outlet. “It is fine if they are traveling in the cities, but in the remote mountains, the infrastructure is not adequate.”“When tourists go missing or they are found dead, even the government cannot track them because they have taken remote routes,” he adds. “This decision has been made for the tourists’ benefit.”The board’s decision—Trekkers Information Management Systems (TIMS)—is an expansion on a 2017 mandate that banned solo climbing on the country’s mountains, including the famed Mount Everest.At least eight (whole or partial) of the world’s 10 tallest mountains reside in Nepal. In 2019, about 300,000 trekkers traveled to Nepal to explore the treacherous terrain with 46,000 of those pursuing solo hikes, before the COVID-19 pandemic. Nepal’s economy, which is one of the poorest in the world, relies on tourism which makes up nearly 7% of its GDP.However, rescuing lost trekkers is costly. According to the US Embassy in Kathmandu, rescuing lost hikers by helicopter can cost between $3,000 and $10,000 per service. Lamichhane also argued that unlicensed tour guides and companies that do not pay taxes take jobs away from locals in Nepal.“There have been some cases where the trekking association has been requesting us to stop these unauthorized trekking operations. This has been a demand from tourism associations for a long time,” he said.Solo trekking in the country has also proved to be dangerous. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, about 400 tourists were reported missing every year in Nepal, according to data collected by Nepal’s government. Roughly 15 tourists are expected to have gone missing during solo hikes, local guides estimated.Ian Taylor, the owner of a guiding company, is disappointed with the with the measure, but agrees overall, explaining there has been an increase in the number of travelers, including those who are inexperienced or lacking skill, who are now flocking to the country.“You used to see only experienced hikers and climbers in the region, many of them traveling without guides, and they were completely self-sufficient.”“However, now, there are far greater numbers of people traveling in the region and more of them are tourists, not trekkers. They are not self-sufficient in the outdoors and therefore need the assistance of experienced guides.”Natalia Lange, 30, an actress from Poland complained she had been saving for a year in order to do a monthlong trip to Nepal, which included a solo hike, and believes she can’t afford the “extra cost” of the TIMS mandate.“Many people already have trips planned and budgets tightened and simply cannot afford the extra cost,” she said. “I’m an advanced trekker, I don’t need a nanny.”


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